We've all been there: I was standing at the Lancôme counter at Saks Fifth Avenue and asking for a sniff of a new fragrance, in this case Lancôme Peut-Être. The sales associate said, "Ah, yes, it's so beautiful!" She sprayed it on my arm, and a few seconds later I lifted it to my nose. "What do you think?" she said eagerly. "Isn't it beautiful?"
The fragrance was barely dry, and I wasn't ready to say anything about it, really. But the ambery mix I smelled wasn't what I'd expected at all, given the ad campaign touting French gardens full of roses and jasmine. "I thought it would be more floral," I said.
"Oh, floral. Try this — Mille et Une Roses. Very beautiful," she said. I had the feeling that she could be dabbing other liquids on my arm and saying, "Lysol toilet cleaner. Beautiful. You should treat yourself," while she calculated her commission. I wrassled a few drops from the tester to try later, but my first impression was that it smelled like Lorenzo Villoresi Alamut lite.
Peut-Être is the latest of Lancôme's La Collection of reissued fragrances, including Sikkim, Magie, Mille et Une Roses, Climat, Sagamore and Cuir (Cuir is only available in Europe). Lancôme originally released Peut-Être in 1937 and credited it to Armand Petitjean. According to Basenotes, Peut-Être (which means "maybe" in French), was renamed Qui Sait, ("who knows") in 1956 before being discontinued. The original Peut-Être featured rose, lily, and linden.
Nathalie Lorson, the nose behind the very different Lalique Encre Noir, retooled Peut-Être for release this year. She retained the original's rose and linden and added lilac and a robust amber and musk base. Lancôme's public relations created a story around Peut-Être starring a love-struck woman in her garden mooning away about her man. While she's there, with rose and jasmine wafting by, presto! here comes said man with something in his hand that we are led to conclude is an engagement ring (and not socks needing mending or a pair of tickets to a monster truck rally, for example).
From this story, I imagined Peut-Être would be a warm floral with an earthy base. Instead, on my skin Peut-Être is an amber and musk powerhouse just barely tempered by rose, lilac, and sweet linden. It isn't as light and tingly as the linden-musk combo of L'Artisan L'Eté en Douce, nor is it the powder, amber, and sandalwood whammy of Villoresi Alamut, but it's something in between. As Peut-Être wears on, it becomes simpler and sweeter.
Once Peut-Être's alcoholic top burns off it almost feels like something you'd make at the local bath shop from essential oils. In fact, after I wore it a few times I drove down to a drugstore to try Jovan White Musk, having a hunch that the $9.99 30 ml bottle of White Musk Cologne spray might trump the $125, 50 ml bottle of Lancôme Peut-Être Eau de Parfum. The Peut-Être kept its edge of quality over White Musk, but the fact that I thought to compare them at all pretty much sums up how I feel about Peut-Être: nice, pretty, but ultimately boring.